Novel begins with a married couple in a mid-life crisis and continues with their trip to Africa. A warm-hearted story with empathy, at the same time also true to its title. A story of love and friendship, a gentle satire about the current state of Western civilization.
Slovenia: Goga, 2016, 220 pages, ISBN: 978-961-277-218-5.
Surely you noticed me counting, though you couldn’t have known what I was doing. When did you realise I wasn’t looking for something? I opened every drawer, moving things inside, stood at the wardrobes, running my fingers across the dresses. I shifted panties, lifted bras, shook nuts and bolts out onto the table, pushing each one separately from one pile to the other, touching everything, even the forgotten condom, so old that the packaging had split and something brown oozed from it. The tip of my index finger came into contact with 3,215 objects; I can still smell the dust everywhere. And I only went through the bedroom and the living room. Just imagine!
I googled it, and apparently the average American household comprises 300,000 objects, 0.8 animals, and 2.53 people. It made me wonder what we are, Slovenes with just a hundredth of this: watered-down Americans? Or are we just not there yet? Are our lives going to swell with objects over the next decade, are we going to acquire a cat and a dog, and is this part of aging?
The apartment itself is nothing but an object, one that we inhabit and where we stack all the other objects we live with, cover ourselves with, look after, and continually try to increase in number. I wonder what we are because we have less, and what we would be if we had nothing?
I dreamt of an apocalypse; people throwing away redundant objects, plastic covering the landscape, the oceans. I woke up choking.
I didn’t want you to hear me counting but, with the numbers becoming larger, I became so engrossed I forgot to stay silent. I sensed you behind my back, approaching me, but not daring to come too close—you always were considerate, I appreciate it. But now I can’t go on. I can’t.
I must confess that I didn’t go to work on Wednesday. Instead I visited a colleague’s daughter who has a one-year-old child. Yes, I took a day off so I could count his toys. 238 in one year! I needed to lie, you see? I told her I was an anthropologist carrying out research. As I left I thanked her by giving the child a new toy.
Did you notice when it all started? On Sunday I’d opened the drawer in the bedroom, you know, the bottom one, I don’t even know why, and I found the drawings our son drew in kindergarten and the first years of primary school. I was delighted to find them, but at night I wondered how is it possible to forget something and then get so excited when you find it again? The drawer reminded me of Facebook, where you get all enthusiastic about finding old acquaintances but soon realise that you’ve found their names and photos but not the former closeness.
There were a total of 112 drawings, I counted them that same morning. I admit I’ve become obsessed, but after counting the bedroom and the living room I can’t go on. I look over there, at the cupboard with all the cutlery and kitchen appliances, the dinner set we were given as a wedding present and never even untied the ribbons, and I feel a void rather than energy, despair instead of willpower. Tell me, why do we have so many things?
I threw out the drawings and now the drawer is empty. Get it, empty?
You know one thing that is worse than a drawer full of junk?”
“An empty drawer?” I asked.
“Sometimes you remind me why I married you.”